North American equity markets are trading higher this morning as Hurricane Irma’s impact was not as severe as previously thought. The hurricane hit the coast of Florida over the weekend, but fortunately lost strength and was downgraded to a Category 1 storm as it continued over land. Insurers are one of the industries seeing a nice boost after projected insured losses from the storm were cut in half. Looking overseas, the European Central Bank is weighing an option to reduce its bond-buying program to 20-40 billion euros a month, down from the current 60 billion euros.
Shifting to commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil (+0.6%) is trading mixed this morning as investors continue to assess the impact that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will have on demand for the fossil fuel. It was also reported that Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister has engaged Venezuela and Kazakhstan about a possible extension to OPEC’s output cut agreement set to expire in March 2018. Lastly, as a result of the downgraded hurricane and North Korea’s weekend off from missile tests, demand for safe haven assets weakened and put some pressure on gold (-0.9%). The precious metal previously hit a 13-month high on Friday when it sent the greenback to its lowest level since January 2015.